Friday, 30 January 2015

A Loose River of Alcoholic Snakes

Ben Wrecker from Melbourne destructive rock label Bro Fidelity sent me this to the Facebook inbox last week, and it reminded me that I haven't yet talked about my love of one of their roster's albums. But before we get to that, let's focus on perennial brutal blasters Hotel Wrecking City Traders and their latest single 'Loose Alcoholic.' Seven minutes and forty nine seconds of visceral propulsive rock, corkscrewing into your brains and setting things on fire, an aural incendiary bomb. The two-piece (Ben on drums, Toby on guitar) is joined here by Raul Sanchez (Magic Dirt, Midnight Woolf) taking on the indecipherable howling, itself another bludgeoning bile-flinging instrument of death. The repetitive growl of the riffs and explosive drumming here is the key though - there is nothing innately loose about this at all.

Now to the band that this brought back to me with a vengeance (and the photos may have given it all away...). The cantankerous trio River Of Snakes (who features the aforementioned Sanchez, The Loveless' Elissa Rose and Mr Bro Fidelity himself on the drums) brought an album out back around July 2014 called Black Noise, and it is a heady amalgam of introspective, downer Australian pub rock, squalling no-wave destruction and bottom-heavy blues, coming out like a black wave of aggression tempered with maniacal grins. 'Beauty' is my key track, but the Kim Gordon channelling on 'Hacksaw', the nihilistic desolation of 'Slater' and the fuzzed-out Ratcat echoes on 'I Wanna Be Your Baby' ensures the album gets off to a killer start. 'Middening' should be much bigger seeing the love for Brisbane miscreants HITS' latest record Hikikomori before fading out into a purgatorial ambiance, and tracks such as the cathartic crawl of  'I Lied' and straight up RnR of 'The Words I Love You (Ain't Enough) ensure the album steams the full distance into the rock abyss. 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Adelaide Blasts From Grid City

Let's finish off as we started today, highlighting the festering brilliance of the Adelaide rock scene, with the compilation from Grid City Itch. Whilst there are only a couple bands I am overtly ofay with (Rule of Thirds/Laiika), I am aware of most of these bands from Adelaidian-at-heart Steph Crase, whose Summer Flake now resides in Melbourne and will be playing our SM Fest in March 14. So the likes of primal spat punk of Men With Chips (a familiar sound in 21st century Australian wastelands), the feverish synth snap of Meat Market (my personal favourite) and synapse meltdown of Kash Konverters ... Elsewhere there are more nuggets to latch on to like the nascent noise of Teen Trash or the lurking synth omens of Deep Red (nice Argento touchstone there too). This is the Adelaide equivalent of the All Day Breakfast compilation that came out in 2012, shining a deserved light on the Real Bad fringe dwellers in the Brisbane music scene (although calling Blank Realm a fringe dweller is a stretch nowadays...).

Wallowing In Vintage Violence

After that interview with Liam Kenny last week, I thought I would continue with another Adelaide funk out that features a Liam Kenny that isn't Liam Kenny. The drone in the punk synth wail of Vintage Violence (not to be confused with the Italian punkoids of same name) evokes John Cale (seeing as they cribbed their name from one of his albums, that is a fair if obvious make) and more insidious gothic synth lurkers like 'Desert' and 'Nerve damage'. This Liam Kenny (of excellent unhinged boozehounds Wireheads) is joined here by fellow Old Mate old mate (and a Peak Twin) Ben Quici. The seven-track album moves along at a oozing pace, the industrial crawl emblematic of the bleak Gothic claustrophobia Europe continually pumps out of the pores of its desecrated earth. Especially when you hear 'Back To You', which is as desolate and dead-eyed as they come. It's brooding, barren, brilliant. Out through Format Records as a digital download or 100-run cassette, both from here.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Old, Pale Rock Heads

Should be called Rough Heads. The cream of the noise crop have come together to create some buzzsaw punk as Pale Heads, as Tom Lyngcoln (The Nation Blue), Riu Periera (ex The Drones), Thom Cones (Batpiss) and Xiao Zhong (Pairs and Bang! Bang! Aids!) belt each other around at The Tote, pressed to tape. The resultant mess is Headless, a thirteen track piece of rough-as-guts suck punch rock that comes out mid-year. 'Transitioning Out' is breakneck, and with Lyngcoln's rusted throttle on display it's a 94 second nugget of sewer gold.

Getting Grieg On The Humpday

(Photo by Steven Schnorrer)

It's the middle of the week, and I'm keeping things decidedly Australian and heavy in this humpday. New band on the Brisbane block Grieg is ripe with hardcore knowledge and noisy neglect, and they have just announced that they finally have an album in the wings, recorded by Cameron Smith at Incremental Records and coming out in March. Named after the composer Edvard Grieg (but more likely named after the Grieg Funeral Home in seminal thriller Silence Of The Lambs, if I know Alex Gillies at all), the trio are taking all comers and ripping them new breathing holes - politely of course. And the acerbic wordsmithery of John Mercer shows no signs of slowing down if the name of the first taste of the album is anything to go by. Bring the filth and the fury - this sounds excellent.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A Holy Razing

Things are cookin' away nicely over at the Swedish stronghold that is garage psych label PNKSLM. Two heady LPs are on their way.

Firstly there is the one from label honcho Luke Reilly (formerly of the excellent Sex Beet)'s own outfit, Lucern Raze. Stockholm One promises to be a blasted bastard in the vein of Ty Segall, especially if you take the yin and yang that this garage beast promises 'Someone Like You'. The song is a cruiser, ready to take the hiiiiiiigh road, taking things, and girls, as they come. However if you heard the carnage of 'Sunshine Blues' back when, you know that this is the lethargic calm before the cathartic storm. Grab the record here (which is also out on Burger Records next month).

Then there is Stabs, the new album from Swedish hazed psych dwellers HOLY. The crackle and pop inherent in 'Demon's Hand' gives the sense of the five-piece playing in their basement, bedroom or (indeed) garage, light filtering wanly through the small, grimy window, weaving pastoral magic over a landscape bereft of such charms. In other words, they create their own world. I'm extremely intrigued to hear the rest of the record. Grab it here.

Passing The Phantom Roche

Where In The World Is Nathan Roche? should be the next geographically-minded educational noir game to take your iOS Android by storm, dumped unceremoniously on all smartphones by iTunes and the Illuminati, in the evil conglomerates' neverending quest to hunt down the irascible, barefoot troubadour before he tears down the curtain - all while teaching the kiddies about global currencies and local cuisines. Admittedly it's pretty easy to find him in the above photo, but I assure you the game would be much tricksier...

Anyway, Glenlivet A Gogh Records have announced that Roche is about to dump his third record on our doorsteps in a flaming Nando's bag, and I couldn't be happier. Cathedrals Made Outta Green Cards is as laconically silly, verbose and charming as you would expect from the man who brought us Watch It Wharf and Magnetic Memories - but don't take my word for it, listen to the man himself!

Press release? Ha! More like an obituary. A death note! The carving inscriptions on a rugged tombstone in a graveyard. CMOGC is Nathan Roche’s third and final report – may he rest in peace six feet under. Following “Watch It Wharf” which could be seen as a record loosely about the working class and wharfs, to “Magnetic Memories” touching on subjects of paradise, luxury, islands and whatever else. CMOGC is about death, transition and two vastly different grand cathedrals. But lets not get too caught up in the half-thought out concept behind the record. Following a European Tour, and a US Tour (with Angie of Circle Pit, Straight Arrows, Ruined Fortune) including shows with fellow Australians Gooch Palms, Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, Deaf Wish, The Stevens, Ausmuteants and being invited to the prestigious Memphis southern romp, “Gonerfest” … “CMOGC” was conceived over a few days post EU tour whilst riding up the mountain of Tibedabo in Barcelona on a rusty pawnshop bicycle each morning. Of course, the songs were brought to the table and then destroyed, rebuilt given a new paintjob and coat of varnish by reliable collaborator and fellow Townsville transplant Joseph Ireland once arriving back into Australia.

 “Grand Piano” feels like surrealistic nostalgia. The subject matter of “Airport Bar” will be familiar to most Australian travellers stopping off in Dubai or Singapore, Bangkok and so on. “Phantom Blues” is fucked up Phillip-Marlow country with a winning outro arrangement. “Tell The Canal” could be Cowboy In Sweden-era Hazlewood if it was made in the 80s with a tacky keyboard. “Breakdown” is psychedelic blues, in the vein of Tav Falco’s Panther Burns. “War Of The Garden” is just plain ridiculous with a rippin’ 1980s heavy metal guitar solo by Ace Romeo (Andy from Canberra’s “The Fighting League”) Oh! And of course there’s rollicking piano.

The standard cult heroes are here to be cryptically ripped off yet again, Lou Reed, Kevin Ayers, Lee Hazlewood, Alex Chilton, Nikki Sudden and the usual suspects probably mentioned in an earlier press release or on three or four well-to-do blogs. A prolific self-published writer, Roche has taken the “risky” plunge into spoken word segments for the finale partly inspired by the ballsy-ness of British eccentric Ivor Cutler and French musician/author Brigitte Fontaine. Featuring a similarly mad Fellini-cast to the previous solo records plus the addition of fertile French singer/musician Mariette Auvray (Pussy Patrol, Eyes Behind, Water Sark, BCBG) the before mentioned Ace Romeo along with Drew Hudson (East River/Wild Cat Falling) combines for a unique listening experience. “CMOGC” is a salty salute to the most unambitious and dismissive man of the Australian Underground. A man of many friends, few enemies and unbelievable luck. Said to be pulling a “PB” (a “Paul Bowles”) Roche has left the recording making for good without ruling out the possibility of a string of “comeback albums” in his post-rehab mid-forties.

For now, it’s a life of adventure, writing unpopular books and working shitty jobs in foreign lands. THIS IS THE THIRD AND FINAL REPORT OF NATHAN ROCHE SO-LONG!!

Yeah, that's the whole presser, but I couldn't resist, the man had me at "death note". We will hear plenty more from the John Farnham of the Sydney dole-living underworld yet, as he continues his global subterfuge, stealing hearts and losing minds. (NB - I'm not sure any of this makes sense, or if that even matters. Just listen to 'Phantom Blues' and get on board).

Monday, 26 January 2015

Seeing Primary Colours On A Compact Disc

Let's finish off this Australia Day with Canberrans Primary Colours who are prepping their Compact Disc/Services Rendered 7". The bass/drums punk/dance noiseniks (Wives' Gus McGrath (also of California Girls) and Jordan Rodger (also of TV Colours)) construct and destruct simultaneously, playing out like the Faint if they hung out at the Jamison Centre. It's raw enough to appeal to the punk aesthetic that permeates the richest seams of the Australian underground, while danceable enough for white hipsters to move their hips a quarter of an inch at a time without breaking a sweat or their crossed arms. There is a lurking menace to 'Services Rendered' though that I would like to become more fully realised - that swing from a more raucous level to something approaching synthetic danger.

Grab the 7" here.

Totally Mild Down Time

One of the albums I'm anticipating in 2015 is Down Time, the debut longplayer from subdued pop chanteuses (and boys) Totally Mild, who are the latest converts to the Bedroom Suck religion. I saw them play at Bar Open back in 2013, directly after obliterating my headspace all day at ATP - I think TM were supporting Liam 'Snow Nasdaq from The Ocean Party' Halliwell's solo thing The Menstrual Cycle - I don't truly remember, I was pretty shattered. The band is the brainchild of Elizabeth Mitchell but also enlists the aid of Lehmann B Smith (if you haven't heard his stuff before, goddamn rectify that asap), Ashley Bundang (Zone Out, Hot Palms) and Zach Schneider (Full Ugly). The first taste off the album is 'Christa', and it's a languid corker. The band are about to embark on a national tour with best buds The Ocean Party (I feel like a mouthpiece for those guys!), and you can catch 'em at the following places:

Thurs, Jan 29 – The Phoenix, Canberra, ACT [w/The Ocean Party, Black Springs + Eadie and the Doodles]

Fri, Jan 30 – The Lansdowne, Sydney, NSW [w/The Ocean Party, Black Springs + King Single]

Sun, Feb 1 – Black Bear Lodge , Brisbane, QLD [w/The Ocean Party, Workshop + Curlew]

Sun, Feb 8 – Ceres, Melbourne, VIC [10am, w/The Ocean Party, two sets each]

Sat, Feb 14 – Brisbane Hotel, Hobart, TAS [6pm, w/Bitch Prefect, Peter Escott, Old Mate, Superstar, Pines, Small Black Lambs + All the Weathers]

Tues, Feb 24 – Howler, Melbourne, VIC [w/The Ocean Party + Real Estate]

That Brisbane show with Workshop and SM faves Curlew looks fantastic... Get along you donkeys!

Take To The Thigh Master In This Age Of Concern (SM's 3000th Post - And 5 Years ON)

This is a special post as it is the 3000th post we here at Sonic Masala have put on this suffering site. It is doubly sweet as today is five years exactly since I started this. And, well, it's Australia Day. So you know, woo. But on with more pertinent matters...

Brisbane silly buggers Thigh Master are brimful of energy - probably why they need that Jane Fonda exercise - as they continue to pump out releases and play copious gigs. They have supported the likes of Ty Segall, Ariel Pink and The Clean in recent months (and in the case of the latter two - yesterday), a tour of Japan, gigs with Real Estate and The Coathangers and a slot on our Sonic Masala Festival imminent, and on top of their great Head of the Witch 7", they are ramping up to release newie Songs To Wipe Your Mouth To. The title track is somewhat glossed up for these slackers, yet otherwise it's business as usual, creating a singalong chorus amidst the whirring, whining cacophony. And yes it is out on head honcho Matt Ford's Tenth Court label, which is showing no signs of slowing down either.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Hits From The Box #94 - Mocking Marking

It's been a gloomy weekend - fallen into that perennial seventh level of hell for a teacher that is known as marking. What's more, they are mock exams - they don't even count for anything except confirming that there is going to be a longer queue for handouts come September (claws are out...) Tempers have frayed; words have been said; smokes have been smoked. And I am still going - however I am taking a sabbatical to dip into the inbox and find some stuff that adequately sits with my addled brain whilst I watch Spaced over the top of the laptop.

I don't know much about the project Russell St Bombings, from Zephyr Pavey (Eastlink) and Al Montfort (UV Race, Dick Diver, Total Control, Eastlink). Other than they aren't the same as the gut punk of fellow Melburnians Russell St Bombers. It sounds like it is a deliberate mess, playing with form, fidelity, melody and narcolepsy. Whether much will come out of this other than this release is anyone's guess - but there is an embryonic glimmer of something surreal and beautiful amidst the shattered surface. The album comes out through SmartGuy Records next month.

Powerdove are a tempered noisenik freakout based in New York, the primary focus for Annie Lewandowski's skewed pop compositions. Also featuring Deerhoof's John Dieterich and Tom Bonvalet (L'ocelle Mare), the band have recently release the album Arrest on Sickroom Records, as well as a solo performance from Lewandowski in Ranieri Chapel church. Arrest is taking the lilting, plaintive, playful machinations of the likes of Joanna Newsome or Joan As Policewoman, then driving it gleefully through a gauntlet of homemade vibrations, fabrications and laments. What remains is an album that is as abrasive as it is comforting; bracing even as it embraces. Its a truly wonderful experience that deserves to ferment, grow, and soar.

Not all that long ago I wrote about Bi-Hour and their An Accident EP. Steven Wright is one half of the Tasmanian group, and he released Incapacity, a cassette out through the local label Wrong Place (Right Time). It's a studied meditation on mental illness up close and personal, and therein lies the difficulty - it proves to be both impenetrable and all-encompassing, requiring circular consumption.

Let's head over to Vietnam now - possibly the first time we have touched down there on Planet Masala. Sound Awakener is better known as Nhung Nguyen, a solo artist from Hanoi. The EP Hidden is a frozen drone wasteland, casting light on the darker emotions of the Self, flayed bare by external natural extremes and internal frission. The mechanical white noise and deliberate, unsettling production tics and stutters is circumvented by found sound and more classical instrumentation, culminating in both an introverted and cathartic susurration of the senses.

But if we can't find our way into the light, what is the point of the dark? Enter Lyon, France's progenitors of baroque pop, Odessey and Oracle. The trio have their self-titled record (with the Casiotone Orchestra) out, and while they have taken their names from an album by The Zombies, it's more of an intriguing mix of Blonde Redhead, Robert Wyatt, Pipers-era Pink Floyd, The Virgin Suicides-era Air and Bjork, with lilting pastoral interludes like a 60s Disney film that is on the verge of taking too many Quaaludes. It's a stunning suite, aimed to be heard in full.

And to keep the incongruous nature of this in check, here is 'Let Down', the first single from New Orleans wasters Pope. The track is a growling rocker, inhabiting both a dour spitefulness and a welcoming warmth - like an old lover that you know is bad for you, but is nonetheless the most familiar thing about your petty life. Pick yourself up to let yourself down to rinse to repeat. It's hard to ascertain why this song works and isn't swallowed up in the miasma of other distorto-"ballads", except to say that all the pieces are miraculously in place. It's sure ramps up the excitement for the arrival of their first album Fiction in March (pre-order now on Community Records - and seeing as Ex-Breathers and Native America have graced their roster, they know what they are on about).

Happy Sunday everyone! 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Fortunate Visions Of A Metallic Country

London experimentalists Vision Fortune are adept at creating dark repetitive dystopias that are hypnotic, off-kilter and off-putting - yet inimitably danceable. Taking a queue from likeminded twisted wizards Liars, their approach to music is devilish yet playful - like a cat playing with a dying mouse. Yet we all enjoy watching brutal animal documentaries, right? David Attenborough is a global treasure based on our morbid fascination with the dog-eat-dog world. So it goes with Vision Fortune's second album Country Music (their first on ATP Recordings - out in February 10), which they will be touring around Europe in March (I'll be in Australia when they play the Ace Hotel in London, unfortunately). 'Dry Mouth' has been out for a couple months, but it's good to delve into its metallic allure, a carapace of vice and disarray, once more.

And now there is this second taste, 'Back Crawl II', a seemingly more insular, percolating track that devolves into a chaotic mess of metal and mire. Excellent.

Bottlecock Made A Dirty Record

Brisbane's purveyors of dirty grunge pop Bottlecock have been around for a while without gaining the kind of respect they probably deserve, although they don't really care what people think either way. They are named Bottlecock after all. However some people have been taking notice - the band reached the 7th spot on 4ZZZ's Hot 100 for 2014 with their song 'Girt By Dickheads' - a great title if I've ever heard one.

It's taken some time, but they finally have an album for us, conveniently named Record. It's exactly as you would expect - obnoxious, loud and scuzzy as hell. Although knowing Josh's adamant statement that no songs should really exceed two minutes, opening the album with 7 1/2 minute 'Bad News' is a strong indication that they don't even give a shit about their own convictions. Sell out? Hardly. Bottlecock have always maintained a mainline into the veins of early Magic Dirt and are unashamed of this. Shit, 'Dumbledore' goes for twelve fucking minutes! Don't worry, the punch is still as deadly as the slow kill - the darkly sinuous 'Caan't' slinks up before ripping your face off; 'Intro' is a thirty second caterwaul that bleeds into the growling march of 'I Wanna See Your Insides'. 'Karaoke Quickie' is a downer deadbeat 'Kool Thing'. They even have a downbeat, "quieter" number in closer 'Mopey'. Solid all round bang up job, cocks.

They have played a number of Sonic Masala shows in the past, and I'm also happy to announce that Bottlecock will be playing our 2nd Sonic Masala Festival on Saturday March 14. Bring on the bottles and the cock.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Piling It On For A Second Hit Single...

Boston band Pile is one of my favourite finds since I've been writing Sonic Masala - it's highly unlikely I would have heard about them in Australia if it weren't for my connection with the excellent Exploding In Sound Records. Pile's 2012 album Dripping was one of my top albums of that year, and is still one I regularly throw on - a sign of a stellar effort. It may be three years since then, but who's counting when the news hits that their album is only a couple months away? You're Better Than This features the track '#2 Hit Single' and its as frayed, frenetic and fucked up as you'd expect, with Rick Maguire his manic and maniacal self. It's also back to the angular, breakneck pace that Dripping pinned down after getting longer and weirder on their Special Snowflakes 7" earlier last year (which, as you can imagine, is still bloody amazing).

Pre-order You're Better Than This here - expect to hear more about this come March.

Hidden Amongst The Silhouettes Of Viet Cong

The Canadian band Women has been a common reference point here at Sonic Masala. The sadly defunct band (splitting after a somewhat public disagreement between the Flegel brothers, then the untimely death of Christopher Reimer) produced two brilliant albums in their 2008 self-titled debut and 2010's Public Strain, which was our favourite album of the year. So whenever any of the remaining members put something out it is feverishly exciting to me.

Last year, when Blank Realm were in London, Dan Spencer picked up a vinyl copy of Viet Cong's EP Cassette. Featuring ex-Women Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace, with Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen, Viet Cong produced an album that was a little closer to the pigeonholed sound they were inadvertently placed in - which was excellent, of course. But now that the self-titled debut is just out (via Jagjaguwar) they have beefed up the sound and upped the ante. The noise is a pleasant addition, yet their presence is as much in melody and elegance as it is aberration and dissolution. 'Continental Shelf' is the perfect amalgamation of the old and the new. Its bombastic, almost arrogant in the way that the various elements of the more abrasive end of the rock spectrum are given room to breathe in a prism of pop sensibility - I can't help but think of Pixies when they disappeared a little further down the rabbithole, bereft of their knowing smiles and kitsch. It's good to have you back, boys.

And then there is 'Silhouettes' which marries this to a Joy Division/Kraftwerk frenetic heart skip/synth gloss. What a heady brew we are in for.

Viet Cong is out now. They are playing in London on February 4 at Hackney Oslo, with support from fellow Canucks and motorik fiends Absolutely Free. Grab tickets here.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Thank God For Sleepy Cheese

Sleepy Cheese is one pretty fucked up dude, if the four-track Thank God It Hurts EP (out now through Forged Artifacts) is anything to go on. A dark pop devolution deep fired in demonic fuzz and feral doom, replete with recorded phone messages of spurned (by love or other, it is not certain) women adding a morbid amusement and chagrin to the proceedings. So much heaviness hangs over proceedings - it's hard to know whether this is a masterpiece or the powerful inner turmoil that brings about one's destruction. It's probably both. There are similarities between this and the initial demos from Merchandise, before they succumbed to avant hipster silliness. You really need to get this - it's great.

Pale Earth Tribes In The Sun

In the next few days I am doing a post about Room40, the global ambient, instrumental, electronic netherspace that is Lawrence English's amorphous label. It is 15 years since the first release hit the metaphorical streets, and there is a lot to look forward to this year, including multiple shows with the likes of William Basinski - but more on that later. I'm here to focus on one release in particular - Sun Tribes, the new EP from Pale Earth.

Each release that Ben Thompson (The Rational Academy, Black Pines) has brought forth a deceptive deconstruction of how electronic music can play out, playing with modulations, pace and beats to explore wide ranging emotions (grief, uncertainty, wistfulness) all derived from ephemeral experiences. Sun Tribes is no different, with the focus on "human interaction illuminated by cold, hard street lights and hazy late night computer screens." Thompson has more experience than most, spending the past couple of years between Brisbane and central Queensland town Emerald, then heading forward to the neon scree of Tokyo. The way in which lives, faces, lights, desires blur together as our timelines unravel like a frayed red carpet, the patterns stretched, marked, faded, yet still discernible. The dreamstates waver, upheld by the inconsistencies of memory and time, yet remains inherently intense,

Pick up Sun Tribes on cassette (through Room40's cassette range A Guide To Saints) from here.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Quaffing The Healing Crystals Down For Those Cool Sounds

Barely six months have passed since Melbourne dudes Cool Sounds brought us Melbourne Fashion, and yet here is another album to light up and take in. Healing Crystals is eight songs of blissful, sanguine pop, an easy glide down the backstreets of your town. Snowy (The Ocean Party et al) has become more of a fixture on this album, his saxophone lending a warm hum that at once refreshes and lightens the load. There are additional vocals lilting in the background too from the likes of Amanda Roff (Harmony), Ashley Bundang (Zone Out, Hot Palms, Totally Mild) and Zac Denton (The Ocean Party, Ciggie Witch) to add to the wash of sultry sounds. In fact this reminds me a lot of last year's Ciggie Witch record, Rock and Roll Juice. There is an ease and familiarity with all of this, that doesn't feel as put on (or put upon) as other players in this crowded tavern. Especially when they get into storyteller mode, like closer 'Pizzas', which plays out like a vignette of a bit player from Edward Scissorhands, if the film was shot in Coburg. Which to me should be the focus of more jangle rock albums - concept it the fuck up.

Seriously though, Healing Crystals is a lovely record. The fact that French label Beko Disques (who put out the Excusers EP I mentioned recently, as well as Day Ravies and Nathan Roche releases) are putting this out is doubly exciting - grab it here. The boys have had a residency this month down at the Tote - and are finishing up this Sunday with Palm Springs and Tam Vantage in support - get along.

Video Vacuum - The Ocean Party. Constant Mongrel . Gooch Palms, Full Ugly, Home Travel, Andre, Go Go Fish

We are going full Australian with this extended Video Vacuum, so strap yourselves in...

Good buds The Ocean Party keep the good times rolling on in soft focus and fun film clips. One of the best tracks of Soft Focus is 'Deluded', and it's great that not only is it their new single, its a great video of interpretive dance from 'new' member Mark Rogers. He actually finishes the song early, after an impressive display of Fitzroy yoga - and then is superseded by a random dude in a station wagon. Accidental brilliance.

Another Melbourne band that I love is Constant Mongrel, and they have a solid video to go along with 'The Law' that is on their DCM 7" (out through RIP Society). The video - mime masks and an assort array of inanimate objects (including what looks like my dusty VCR that hasn't left my parents' garage since 2006) in an empty room. Trust me, the minimalism works. If you are digging this (and you bloody well should) and are in Sydney, head down to the Lansdowne NOW - they are playing alongside other excellent acts Woollen Kits and Nathan Roche.

The crazy kids from Newcastle Gooch Palms are almost outta town, with their relocation to the US of A imminent. And boy will we miss them - as 'Trackside Daze' attests. The Ramones in hyperdrive, on speed and clinically insane, the duo take the film clip and add cheese, uniforms, outlandish glasses, talking gerbils, dancing skeletons, grandparents, aquariums, impaled it's a schizoid mindfuck, and so so brilliant.

I've made no bones about how pleasantly surprised I was by how much I enjoyed Spent The Afternoon, the debut album from Full Ugly last year. After recording a house show and some silly interludes from the band, we now have a quaint little video for 'Oh Daddy', which has me reaching for Spent The Afternoon all over again. Nice one guys!

One of my favourite albums of the year in 2014 was Jersey Flegg, the concept album by You Beauty. That band's Will Farrier has another intriguing musical outlet at the moment, as one half of Home Travel, a minimal synth outfit that is at once camp and sinister (therefore, brilliant). Johann Rashid, the other half, resides in New York - and the film clip for 'Death Threats' underscores the seedy underbelly of that city as seen in 80s and 90s B-grade violent films (King of New York comes to mind). It's a super slick production, albeit one that is strange, stupid, knowing and fun (the tongue roll over the th in 'threat' is also incredible) - and I can't wait to see what else these two will bring our way.

An underrated musical genius lurking through the streets of Melbourne is Andre. He slips under the radar in his leather vest and miniscule moustache, his motorcycle purring down these streets. His third album Smooth Move came out in December (I'll have to get to that soon), and here is the (again) slick video for 'Single Town' . It's a great tongue in cheek song about staying single, but the video is brilliant, all slow motion posturing with fans in the bedroom, angle grinders in the garage, steaks on the BBQ, guitars in the bubblebath and a naked Emma Russack. Andre, keep it coming - there isn't enough of this out there.

A couple weeks ago we launched the news of our second Sonic Masala Fest. One of the local bands to make the grade are Go Go Fish, guitar pop nerds who love their hooks with sugar and bite. New single 'Guest List' is exactly the kind of thing these guys do well - the the clip, of the band wandering around a share house that starts out with just a small jam, blazes into a party (with added beer-induced workouts) with the slightest edge, before twinkling out with a wistful grin.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Hits From The Box #93 - Flicking Nets

The Internet is a great thing - especially in January in London, when everyone is poor and miserable and out of pocket. This month I have discovered the brilliance that is Netflix, and have been spending most nights watching movies and TV shows til all hours. Current favourite is the Mark Duplass/Nick Kroll fronted The League - how haven't more people seen this hilarious show? Also watching Southern dark dramas - Mud, Joe, Blue Ruin... This rabbithole is dank and dark. Still, I need to focus and get back into writing, otherwise I'll fuse with the couch. Actually I am writing this on the couch - so it's pretty much the same thing.

Let's start off with new Brisbane band Eyes Ninety. Featuring members of bands such as Chinese Burns, The Standing 8 Counts, Eat Laser Scumbag! and Happy Times, the four piece revel in a running the rusted tightrope between 80s Aussie pub punk like Cosmic Psychos or the Onyas and 70s blazed rock - the end result is dusting off a relic that you didn't even know was missing, placing it pride of place on the middle of the mantelpiece, then getting shitfaced and breaking every glass surface in the house.

A change of pace if not one of visceral temerity comes from Bristol's Giant Swan, a new signing to Howling Owl Records (Spectres, Towns, Oliver Wilde). Giant Swan is a shapeshifting beat duo that are intent on tearing down the fibres of your being and leaving you abandoned, nerves frayed, mind lost. Robin Stewart and Harry Wright have recorded this self-titled EP (pressed on clear vinyl) live and in the moment, so there is a hiccoughing, burping, heaving immediacy that envelops wholly. This is a noise experiment that has nefarious global intentions - the kind of industrial drone that intends on shackling the mainstream and the slipstream into one agonised seething mass, all locked together and Giant Swan slammed into their earholes ad nauseum. This madness - we've (thankfully) brought it on ourselves.

Set the phasers to the heart of the sun with Wondermoth around. The Kent collective love revelling in woozy pop malaise, taking things slow and perilously close to the wintry sun, a psychedelic soft boil, eyelids at half mast, hair feathered out, bodies weightless. 'It Comes In Circles' is the first time in ages where an unadulterated phaser pedal has made me nod in approval - it's so dirty yet somehow sonorous and purely otherworldly too. I like this.

Getting decidedly more sun-swept and lazy now with Melbourne's Grandstands, another band fitting into the bustling pigeonhole of slow jangle, drawled minutiae and sun shining through the foliage onto the goon bag of lost adult adolescence. Single 'Getting Out' is closest to earlier Ocean Party than other band throwing this at the wall at the moment, and yet such familiarity does nothing to obscure the face that this is a great track. Seeing as it's been worked on by Josh Bach (from Milk Teddy - where have those guys been?) and Case Rice, it sounds great. And there is a song here called 'Forest Hill', and I live in a place called Forest Hill, so it's almost like its about me ("But how wrong was I?")

I'm disappearing into the percolating crawl of evitceles. The Bulgarian artist looks to Andy Stott, Actress and Four Tet as spirit animals, throws us a breathing apparatus, and takes on a chrysalis-exploring journey of the internal. Churning out sounds at an alarming rate, I'm only coming out of Underwater I to find Underwater II has been waiting for me. Newest track 'Watching You Unconsciously' is creepy in its industrial melt, a glitchy sermon from beneath the earth. There is something ethereal yet innately dangerous about evitceles' work that has me in constant thrall.

Let's finish up with NYC darlings, Darlings. Their new album Feel Better comes out on Tuesday, and it's a pastiche of perennial guitar pop mastery that proves that these stuff will continue to be made, and made well, til the ends of time. There are coy stabs at grungey riffs that break into a twee jangle a la Custard ('Strap'), a stand up rock tune in 'Garrone', a C86 pop gem in 'Always Remember' and the raucous Lemonheads of 'AV Community Events'. It is this kind of record that makes me smile despite myself, realise that as shit as the world can get, it can't get that shit, there will always be good, even if it's losing an unwinnable fight, because the good never gives up. It's a great, fun record

Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Heart & Away

Tasmania is a isle off Australia that is pretty much its own world. The beauty, the laidback nature, the alcohol - it all is so self-contained. It often feels like that with the music scene too. If The Nation Blue hadn't moved to Melbourne, would they have struck the chord that they have? Had Sea Scouts been a mainland band, would they be in their rightful place as one of Australia's best visceral bands instead of being something of a footnote? Bands like Drunk Elk and Treehouse may maintain their intrigue because of their fleeting advances on the rest of Australia, yet it feels that every time you make it to the Apple Isle it's a chance to submerge oneself in the fertile waters of their creative community and there is always something new to discover.

'Away', the new single from Hobart trio Heart Beach, is an example of this. After putting out a bunch of tracks since 2013, they are finally committing to putting something physical out into the slipstream in the form of their debut album, yet the thumping anthemic nature of 'Away' is more than enough to sate the appetite before that rolls around. The lyrics also indicate a restlessness the belies the plodding drums and soaring feedback - "Can you stop me know?/I want to get out/I've been here before, before...."- and when the urgency hits, the complacency and malaise somehow intensifies - "I was late today/I don't really care/It's always the same, the same..."

Nothing new here, really. And yet...and yet...there is something tangible and tactile about all of this - an earnestness that is juxtaposed by a tonal warmth and an exuberance just simmering under the surface. We have been listening to this song on repeat for the past two days, and this is likely to happen into the weekend.

Friday, 16 January 2015

INTERVIEW - Liam Kenny

This is an interview I actually did with Liam Kenny (Bitch Prefect, Peak Twins, a veritable shit tonne of other things) in accordance with the release of his "solo" record, A Kenny For Your Thoughts. Seeing as I cannot get 'Avalanche' and 'I Am The Ocean' off the stereo at the moment - and seeing as this should have been posted in December - I would launch into it now.

SONIC MASALA: The album/project on paper sounds like an inebriated conversation that has somehow sprung into fruition. How did the idea come about? Was it something that once conceived came together pretty quickly, or was there a fully-formed idea from the onset?

LIAM KENNY: Yeah it started as a joke and many would say it remains a joke... Really we just thought it was an interesting and weird thing to do. For a relatively young person to do a kind of Bryan Ferry, Rod Stewart, middle age style covers record, we just thought that'd be funny. And then once you have an idea you don't hate you may as well do it. 

SM: Kate (Reid, of it Records) has said to me (and its official, seeing as she's put it in the newsletter) that she started the label for this express "joke". When did you realise 'you know what, this dumb idea isn't so dumb after all'? Plus I like the idea of Liam Kenny, the middle aged crooner. I'm also a massive fan of Roxy Music - make of that what you will. Was there a thought to go 'full sell-out' mode, wear white suits and hit the RSLs and jazz clubs around Melbourne, somehow transform into a lounge lizard? There are moments, such as Billy Idol's 'Eyes Without A Face', where that warped vision could very well have been a reality.

LK: Yeah I mean ultimately we don't just see it as a joke because it's a lot of effort to go to for a joke. Jack (Farley) and I are proud of the music and we obviously think it works on a 'serious' level... and that's probably why the idea of dressing me up in white suits and kind of creating a character or whatever never really occurred to us... I'm really not into that sort of thing... I'd rather the tongue be kinda always half in the cheek than be devolving into total shtick. And of course we love Roxy Music and Rod Stewart, who doesn't? Well, maybe some people don't. But yeah, the balance between laughter and tears is one that needs to be navigated in life at all times. When doing it in music it's gotta be subtle. Something like Johnny Telefone, that's one of my favourite artists in the country. You could argue that he's playing a character, but there's an honesty to it and a depth of emotion that goes beyond humour or seriousness and ends up being both and neither. It's elusive. That's where you wanna be.

SM: Were there songs then that you originally had in mind but then had to be discarded due to the shtick element? It can be a tightrope after all (which you thankfully command well - it's a great record, something I should have said from the outset ha). Why no Roxy/Rod specific music/language? It's funny you mention Johnny Telefone - because there are artists in Australia that do mine this territory quite well, even if for differing reasons. Donny Benet is another, although he might fall into the shtick category that you are artfully avoiding.

LK: I didn't have anyone in mind, just reacting to the imagined "Kenny For Your Thoughts lounge Variety Hour." Although now it's not sounding so bad........ I don't think there were any songs we decided not to do for that reason. We've still got a really long list actually, we'll probably do a second album. I reckon a good Roxy Music one to do would be 'If There Is Something' from the first album. That thing is an emotional rollercoaster.

SM: Oh man that would be killer. The highs and lows of Kenny and Farley... Speaking of which, as you are pushing AKFYT as a collab between the two of you, can you tell me more about the relationship in the making of the album? I notice that iT Records are still promoting this as AKFYT by Liam Kenny - is that merely a superficial misnomer, putting your name on the label to draw in sales? (I'm not trying to be facetious or anything here either - I am honestly interest in the connection and collaboration between you two, and indeed with iT Records).

LK: It's definitely a collaboration more than it is a solo record, (as) half the ideas are Jack's. But it probably gets referred to as a solo record because that's how it's presented - as a singer doing a covers record. The idea of two people doing a covers record doesn't really have a rich kind of aesthetic history or whatever, it's better for the show business / Las Vegas side of it for it to be billed as a solo record, if that makes sense. But to be honest we really didn't actually think about any of that, we just let Kate get on with it. As for our relationship making it, we made it over maybe two years. We'd work on it pretty rarely. We were living together at the time and Jack had a studio set up in the home. Occasionally we'd just do another one. Me and Jack are very good friends, I have a lot of respect for what he does, he's an exceptionally talented individual. It all happened very comfortably.

SM: Jack has been getting a fair bit more work over the past two years too - did you find that his ideas grew or even diversified each time you came back to the project?

LK: I'm sure I might have noticed if I was looking but to be honest when I'm working with Jack I just expect everything to go perfectly. It's when something goes wrong that I begin to notice and then question him and probe him and make him feel bad about himself. That's the appropriate dynamic.

SM: You have to keep him on his toes! The "conceptual" status of AKFYT fits into the idea of conceptual art that Sol DeWitt upholds - "the idea becomes the machine that makes the art"... Is that how you feel about the eight songs that make up the album?

LK: I dunno man... I mean I don't know if it applies here really... I mean its just a collection of recordings and ideally they'd all work individually... We didn't reject anything because it didn't fit with the idea, if anything the idea expanded to accommodate the different recordings we were making. Frankly though I wouldn't be looking too much into this stuff, I can guarantee none of this ever occurred to us. I'm struggling to articulate any kind of thought process in what we did. We just recorded versions of songs we liked. I'm even uncomfortable with the notion that it has any artistic coherence or worth at all. It's basically just meant to be a party record.

SM: Haha. I didn't mean to make AKFYT out to be any more cerebral or "artful" than it is - maybe I'm over thinking things. I will say that these songs do work individually. I heard 'Avalanche' and thought "shit, why don't we have this kind of dirge-lite dance music in Australia more?" It's easily my favourite on the album. But outside more "lounge-friendly" fare that plays into the joke readily ('Sea Of Love', 'Eyes Without A Face'), then you have a somewhat faithful version on Neil Young's 'I'm The Ocean' (almost an obscure choice, with Pearl Jam as his backing band) and All Saints' 'Never Ever'. Both could stand as karaoke songs.

LK: I reckon there's heaps of stuff in Australia with a similar sound to 'Avalanche' nowadays. It was pretty inspired by groups like Repairs and Nun. It's pretty derivative, from my end anyway. The way I'm singing and playing on all of the songs is all trying to sound like different other things. That's part of the reason there's so many guest musicians too, it's just meant to be a massive pile of thievery and appropriation. I'm usually not trying to sound like other things currently happening when I record music, usually I'm trying to avoid it, but on this I just copied everyone a lot. I reckon it works for the idea of a covers record. If you're not gonna have original songs you may as well do them in an unoriginal way as well. But again I don't think me and Jack ever had this conversation, that was just how I looked at it myself. Jack would obviously argue that he is focused on breaking new ground at absolutely all times. If the album has any 'original' kind of achievements they're all Jack's. Apart from the title, that was all me.

SM: What drew certain guest musicians (Zond's Justin Fuller, Super Wild Horses' Amy Franz, Ela Stiles Twerps' Martin Frawley et al) into the fold then - how did you feel they fit into the AKFYT idea?

LK: We just got heaps of guests because recording with mates is an enjoyable thing to do and we knew it would improve the album and make it less boring. It works with the idea like I said because -  the whole record is about other peoples' work. May as well have more other people on it.

SM: If it's about other people's work - how did you choose the final eight tracks? What was it about these that appealed?

LK: Again there was no real thought process. We just kept doing them until we had a half hour of music. They're songs we like, that was the only criteria.

SM: Fair enough really! Is there much thought in the way of playing these songs live, or is going to remain a release-only endeavour?

LK: Nah no live shows, we were thinking about doing a one off show when the album came out but it didn't really end up happening. I get sick of everything having to be done live, there's always this pressure to play live all the time, especially in Melbourne. It's over the top. Why does there have to be a thousand shows every night? Sometimes a recording should just be a recording. There's enough fuckwits up on stages already.

SM: Haha, there is certainly a flood of music in Melbourne. Do you have a particular favourite from the album?

LK: Yeah I like the Bob Dylan one the most, it's the saddest one.

Grab A Kenny For Your Thoughts here.

8 Bit's Second Wind, For Crying Out Loud

Back in 2013 I became inexplicably enamoured with 'Bodega Run' by NY 8-bit rock wizards Crying. Actually it's not inexplicable - that thing is aural crack. Well the trio are back with new EP Second Wind, and it's more of the same - high octane, euphoric rock with heavy 8-bit overtones, an overdose of sugar and blinding colour palettes. 'Sick' reminds me of Speedy Ortiz if they scored Paperboy on the Sega Master System, while 'Batang Killjoy' is a call to arms that hits me right where my blocky heart resides. Seriously, on paper this is the twee-est of Fortuna Pop and indebted to Weezer University, deepfried in 80s console mania, and could - possibly should - go horribly wrong - yet this stuff kills. 'War of Attrition' even has a beautifully 80s hair metal guitar lick in the middle! My teen self is crying with joy.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Happily Diving Headlong Into This Big Ol World

Happy Diving are a four piece who believe in opening all tracks with wails of feedback, blasting through pop conventions, mainlining sugar-rush mayhem before fading away like an imploding quasar. Their album Big World is basically one song, repeated ten times. The thing is, this actually doesn’t bother me at all – because their clearly beloved song structure of choice is delivered with such relish and volume, all imbued with amber light, it feels like a bliss bomb that you don’t want to stop tearing your very essence apart. So it can be visceral – but we are talking Whirr/Dino Jr/PAWS visceral – a sun-drenched shoegaze aesthetic adhered to scuzz-pop and hipster noise in bite-size form. This is heightened by Jack Shirley’s touch – with Deafheaven and the aforementioned Whirr receiving his mannered touch-ups, he is becoming the go-to for more angular yet aurally accessible shoegaze gauze. The press release compares the quartet to Japandroids, a band that I obviously like, but I feel the band is more akin to another SM fave, Ovlov, albeit with a sunnier disposition. Big World isn’t so big – it’s brash, familiar, and repetitive – but why get out of the pool when it’s so good?

You can get Big World (out through Father/Daughter Records) here – vinyl variations include oxblood or virgin black, but you've missed out on the oxblood and baby blue splatter on double mint - what a delicious disaster that record would be...

Sit On A Manatee(e) and Spin

Pelican Pow Wow Records is doing a mean streak of garage punk, undercutting the Hozac nation by mainlining the filth and spewing forth the fury. Releases have included Mac Blackout Band and No Bails - and near the tail end of 2014 came Sit & Spin, a puerile gem of a record from Memphis diseased dinguses Manateees. I have been listening to 'Shitwolf' as my "closing off" song at work just as I am about to leave class for the day - never with students in the room, mind, but one day I am sure some 11 year old will come in to ask about Dickens and get blasted in the earhole. 'Cold And Rhythmic' on the other hand is more on the Lower end of the punk spectrum. Basically these guys slide along the tetanus blade of punk rock, from dumb to cerebral, cold to steaming - yet all of it with the cacophonous wires burning white hot. Grab the electric Sit & Spin here.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Musky, Scuzzy Blues

What to make of the self-titled album from Oakland's blasted bastards Musk? Out on Holy Mountain (who had a diverse roster in the past, with the likes of James Ferraro and Country Teasers passing through their corridors), Musk is a heaving, roiling, gnashing beast, unable and unwilling to stay on the melted tracks. 'Funny Feelings' may be emblematic of the blues rants that many critics have stuck bloodily to their lapel (think JSBX with rotted teeth and cardboard bedspreads), but 'Rot Soft' is just as ready to take a wild detour into pigfuck country, as if the four-piece rutted down in the bayou and fucked Jesus (Lizard). 'Trash Roof' devolves like Aussie reprobates Deaf Wish scratching at their cold sores and two-bit whores. But above all else, the majority of Musk rolls out the fetid carpet into the quagmire of insanity, taking the redneck road less travelled - something another Antipodean act, Six Ft Hick, have made their own. No matter the fisticuffs or the rough-and-tumble, Musk is a grotty powerhouse of rancid rock that I hope I can bathe in forever.

Grab Musk here - you really must.

Moping & Courting In A Halfway House In The City

Brisbane short-form DIY label Tenth Court keeps punching well above its weight. New 7" cab off the rank is Halfway House, the new EP from Sydney's Mope City, a band that has no right being this good when members are already stretched thin with excellent bands such as Day Ravies, King Tears Mortuary, Shrapnel and Snotty Babies. The three tracks on display latch onto a restless urgency that writhes underneath the glistening jangle and sonorous harmonies, intimating a more desperate Go Betweens (the title track), or a moribund, self-flagellating Swirlies ('Blunt Razor'). It's such a great bite-size release - when is the album coming out guys? Seriously?!

Grab Halfway House here.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Soft Grimacing Waves

Irish label Soft Power ended 2014 and started 2015 in strong fashion with a pair of releases that really impress. In December London duo/trio and SM faves Witching Waves released their debut LP Fear of Falling Down (which is almost sold out already - get one of the last 35 here), which is an absolute corker of a record that broods within garage rock circles yet are more indebted to the Fortuna Pop crowd, and are more reminiscent of Sons & Daughters than their angular brethren. Going from DIY bludgeoning to a label that has coaxed the likes of September Girls and The Spook School into the limelight hasn't changed Witching Waves' gritty-yet-hook-heavy approach one iota. This is an excellent release, and damned if these guys won't be doing something special by year's end. Get along and see them play Power Lunches this Friday.

Then there is I Am Material, the six-track cassette EP from fellow Londoners H. Grimace, which goes even further into the dark, yet hushed, corners. The lurking ambiance is always imbued with unkempt portent, so that when a song like 'Royal Hush' starts out a languid pop malaise (something akin to Melbourne's Summer Flake), its facade cracks and the true beast is unleashed. 'To The Shaggerston' is a punk gnarl of the Seattle backwater variety (and all the greater because of it). To my ears, there aren't many bands in London doing this kind of ragged, languid rock, which makes them all the more important to get behind. Not that we will see them much in March, as they do a frantic tour across the US aided in part by SF label 20 Sided Records.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Beatific BCBG

The otherworldly crystalline off-kilter pop of Parisian duo BCBG came to my attention when I was sent their latest 7" Noces d'Argent by Aussie barefoot laconic troubadour Nathan Roche (who is helping bring this to as many people as possible Down Under through the Glenlivet-A-Gogh label). The band, although having played in the same Paris underground sounds circles, albeit in other bands (Pussy Patrol, Eyes Behind, Kikiilimikilii), only came together when Mariette Auvray and Samuel Trifot bonded during a residency in Brazil. Another travelling musician in Brazil at this time was Angie Garrick (Straight Arrows, Ruined Fortune, Southern Comfort, Angie), and she fell for BCBG's intense, hypnotic charms. This 7" perfectly encapsulates the heady melting pot that is kitschy disco pop, intransigent techno beats, coalescing psychedelic missteps and ethereal beauty. 'Jaune De Naple' is bewitching; 'Desert Narquois' starts playing over itself, somehow heightening the hook by burying it; and digital bonus 'Astral Cities' holds strong focus too, finding a slipstream of dreamy ephemeral euphoria that Electric Youth failed to keep entrenched in a bottle (seriously,2014 album Inner World is pretty goddamn awful - what a disappointment). All in the native tongue, BCBG holds reign, and deserve to reign supreme.


Don't Mind The Twerps

My anticipation for Twerps' new album Range Anxiety just went up a couple hundred notches after hearing new cut 'I Don't Mind', a perambulating roller that incrementally builds, a lopsided grin and assured saunter intermittently broken by cascading sunlight. Martin Frawley has mined a rich seam of songwriting in holding onto internal doubts and brandishing them like shields against external threats - a self-galvanising force, inherently radiating with lackadaisical light. It's what makes each Twerps release such an ebullient event.